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date: 02 April 2020


  • William Gradante


A Cuban narrative song form. Derived from rural folk tradition, it was still popular in rural and urban areas at the end of the 20th century as a significant popular music genre, part of the canción cubana complex. Characterized by improvised décimas (octosyllabic verse form), it was originally set strophically to traditional Spanish melodies called tonadas. The décimas, often celebrating the local region or amorous in content, characteristically use double meaning to convey subtle, picaresque humour. In two parts, the first in a minor mode, the second major, the guajira is usually accompanied in strict tonic-dominant harmony on various Cuban guitars, originally including the bandurria (flat-backed lute), and claves (two round sticks one knocked on top of the other to beat out key rhythms). Frequent alternation of 3/4 and 6/8 with vertical hemiola and high-pitched vocal melodies are typical. It can also use the punto guajiro form which uses either a fixed pattern or free. When fixed, the guitar or ...

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